Pop Culture

In Fight With Disney, Scarlett Johansson Has Hollywood Agency’s Muscle Behind Her

Bryan Lourd, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency, has Black Widow’s back. 

Just as Black Widow can always rely on Captain America and the Avengers in times of woe, it appears that Scarlet Johansson can call upon Bryan Lourd and the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), perhaps the only team with more fearsome strength than Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Lourd, the co-chairman of CAA (and one-time husband to Carrie Fisher) suited up on behalf of his client on Friday, one day after Johansson sued The Walt Disney Company for breach of contract over Black Widow. CAA is the biggest Hollywood agency with many A-listers on its roster. Disney is home to Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, 20th Century Studios, and all those live-action Disney classics. In other words, this fight could be the biggest since Endgame’s portals. The question is: who will be the vanquished Thanos? (Alright, no one is a literal supervillain here.) 

Let’s do like the Black Widow movie and back up the timeline a bit. On Thursday, Johansson sued Disney, alleging that the simultaneous release of the latest Marvel picture in both theaters and via streaming relinquished possible earnings at the box office, when her pay was to be “based largely on ‘box office’ receipts,” V.F. previously reported. While one can never fully predict whether a movie will be a hit with the public, the current box office tally of $319 million makes it one of the lowest Marvel films in the series, while the streaming figure is apparently boast-worthy. Her suit claimed that “Disney’s strategy to lure viewers away from the theatres and toward Disney+ worked.” In other words, they contend that Disney got their win but side-stepped their star.

Her lawyer, John Berlinski, told V.F. that “it’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price—and that it’s hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so.”

Disney fired back that “the lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

That’s where Lourd stepped in. Disney “shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” he said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. Lourd added that Johansson’s involvement in nine Marvel movies has “earned Disney and its shareholders billions.”

Lawsuits are not uncommon in Hollywood, but as Variety bluntly put it, “epic legal battles almost never get this massive.” During the pandemic, the pivot to day-and-date streaming availability happened rather quickly, and now, conflict has ensued. Unlike native streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon, the studio-pegged streamers Disney+, Paramount+, and HBO Max “have yet to establish their own compensation models,” the trade outlet notes.

With some fanfare, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins were both given significant bonuses (rumored to be $10 million each) when Wonder Woman 1984 hit HBO Max in December prior to the widespread availability of the coronavirus vaccine in North America. Variety writes that Johansson and her lawyers believe “the cannibalization caused by the Disney+ launch potentially cost the actress $50 million in backend compensation.”

As interested parties wait to see how this plays out, Marvel alum Dave Bautista was at least on hand with a joke.

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